Although Greece agreed to accept most of Mussolini’s demands, the Italians steadfastly remained in possession of Corfu while an international investigation began in Ioannina. Gilbert was already developing photos of the massacre for the Italian Legation when Ambassador Montagna asked him to report on the political feeling in the Peloponnese, which Montagna undoubtedly would have ‘spun’ against the Greeks. In addition, Gen. Perrone asked Gilbert to reconnoiter the potential military vulnerabilities of the railway running along the south coast of the Corinthian Gulf. Decades earlier the Italians had built a traction rail line to bring ore down from Kalavryta through a narrow winding gorge to the coastal rail line along the Corinthian Gulf at Diakopto.
Since Gilbert had already been planning a hike with Mme Bouboulis through Arkadia, he undertook the ‘spy’ mission as he called it under the cover of hiking with Mme Bouboulis and Mme Eydoux (French General Joseph-Paul Eydoux trained the Greek army before the First War and died in 1918) to the so-called Source of the River Styx. The Styx was one of the legendary rivers in the underworld, famed for its miraculous powers, either protective or lethal, and was located in Arkadia. This region was also known for its caves, both in Greek mythology when the maddened daughters of King Proitos took refuge in one, and today where the spectacular Cave of the Lakes is indeed evocative of rivers leading into deep dark underground worlds.
In the twentieth century, however, the Source of the Styx referred to Mavronero, a remote waterfall in Arkadia difficult to reach. In the Spring, melting snow from Mt Chelmos flows over the top of a steep cliff some 600 feet straight down to a small stream which cascades its way eventually into the Krathis river, and it was this waterfall that Gilbert and the ladies trekked to see. On their ascent, the travelers walked up to the cave monastery at Megaspeleion (which later blew up in a disastrous explosion in 1934) and on to the village of Kalavryta before passing over eastward to the waterfalls on the east face of Mt Chelmos. Today there are several hiking paths in the area, but those closest to the waterfall itself are arduous and treacherous with loose stones and, since the lofty waterfall can be more safely seen from a distance, it seems likely that Gilbert and the ladies hiked only within viewing distance of the waterfall; certainly, they neither touched nor crossed over it.
“At last your letter of the 3rd inst. So glad you have been sensible about all this bust up. I did not send you a telegram on the 14th [his mother’s birthday] as I was afraid it might give you a shock but I can assure you that you were in my thoughts. … Tomorrow morning [Sunday 16] we, Boub, Eydoux & I leave for the Peloponnese. The motor is to be here at 5: it is now a quarter to 1 (of tomorrow a.m., not p.m.) so I expect to sleep in the train. Will probably be back Wednesday or Thursday. … The Kozadinou leaves on Tuesday for Vityna [a summer resort in the mountains of the Peloponnese] so I have said goodbye to her today [as Gilbert expected to be soon leaving Greece himself]. I made her a present of a Greek embroidered dress which she had admired very much and which really is to her very becoming. I think she was very touched. I have not the vaguest idea of what to give the Bouboulina: as I practically live there I must give her something really nice. Ought I to tip her servants and how much?
Saw Perrone & Montagna yesterday [Friday 14] as I had been printing for the legation over 100 photos of the Jannina crime. Perrone wants me to report on the military possibilities of the railway & especially on what points are vulnerable from the sea; Montagna a report on the political feeling. Quite an important personage! I think it funny my spying while traveling in the company of two Greek ladies one of which I am half in love with. … Jacopich & the Reggiani are leaving on Monday and will take this letter. It is now after one and as I have only three hours I hope you will excuse me. (Saturday, 16 [sic] September 1923)”
The journey to the “Source of the Styx” and back to the land of the living was Gilbert’s initiation into the world of “spying” for the Italian government. While he had voluntarily sought out political feelings in Greece before as an anonymous correspondent for an English newspaper, he was now reporting officially to the Italian authorities, Montagna and Perrone, who were reporting directly to Mussolini. Moreover, Gilbert was now investigating the military aspects of the railway along the Gulf of Corinth for potential points of attack by the Italian navy, the rail line that he and his companions were taking to Diakopto, up to Kalavryta, and back from Akrata to Corinth and Athens.
“I have had a most enjoyable trip to the Styx with Mmes Bouboul & Eydoux. The B. lost the train at Corinth but came along later in a goods train. We went to the convent of Megaspeleion & Kalavryta & then went up the Chelmos, whence one gets a perfectly glorious view & to the falls of the Styx which would be magnificent if there was a little water, but there isn’t [in September] & so back to Akrata [train station on the coast] & Athens. Great fun & the ladies stood it really wonderfully.” (Monday, 24 September 1923)
Gilbert’s reports to Montagna and Perrone are not known, and he makes no reference to them in his letters to his mother. While he was still ‘spying’ in the Peloponnese, a public funeral was held in Athens [Wednesday, 19 September] for the victims of the massacre and full honours were paid to the Allies, but Mussolini did not abandon Corfu until the end of the month. By rejecting the validity of the League of Nations, he was setting a precedent. Britain and France had acquiesced in his extortionate plan and Greece was humiliated. Only later was it revealed that an Albanian witness testified that on hearsay evidence a band of local Albanians, including at least three born in Greece, had carried out the massacre. The Albanians in the first car were never questioned. (James Barros, The Corfu Incident of 1923, 1965, p. 28, n. 32)